Wider Canterbury helping quake-hit firms revive

9:00 pm on 31 March 2011

More than 30 quake-hit Christchurch businesses are relocating further south - and places like Ashburton and Timaru are pulling out all the stops to help them get back on their feet.

Ashburton District Council chief executive Brian Lester says local councils are offering a range of help, such as finding office space, mentoring and one-on-one regulatory advice.

The chief executive of the Ashburton business group Grow Mid-Canterbury, Rob Brawley, says seven businesses have already relocated to the town, ranging from manufacturers to photographers.

Mr Brawley expects more businesses to move, but says Ashburton is not trying to poach Christchurch businesses.

"In fact, we think this would be a very poor time to do that," he says. "What we are trying to do, on the contrary, is help businesses in Christchurch."

The city's central business district was severely damaged in the 6.3 earthquake of 22 February.

'Ideal' move for cot company

Dreamweaver Cots relocated to Ashburton after the first major Canterbury quake last September, which extensively damaged its stock, and owner Ken Neale says the move has been ideal.

Sharing a workshop with a local business he's now operating out a of building four or five times larger than the one he used to have, he says.

The fact that the company's orders come through its website also meant, he says, that "we weren't stuck in one place and could shift anywhere in New Zealand."

On Wednesday Prime Minister John Key opened a new business estate in Ashburton.

Ballantynes puts more into Timaru store

Further south, the well-known Christchurch retailer Ballantynes has shifted staff and stock to its Timaru store: its flagship department store on Cashel Mall, in the middle of Christchurch's inner-city cordon, remains inoperable.

The business's Timaru manager, Hayley Larsen, says the branch has opened a call centre to serve Christchurch customers, and is offering a larger range of products.

She says Ballantynes feels very confident about the loyalty of its customerss and has had thousands of phone calls from people wanting to make purchases and support the firm in a difficult time.

Ms Larsen says the Timaru shop will begin opening on Sundays to help meet demand.